Paralympics and people power

Beth and sonUsually, my Blog confines itself to the paranormal, which offers a very broad spectrum of subjects for comment. Today, I’m making a departure from that rule to say a few words about the London Paralympics 2012.

London did a wonderful job of hosting the Olympic Games and soon, after a short respite, its venues will welcome disabled sportsmen and women from around the world. It promises to be an inspiring event, showcasing not only the individual and team skills of those whose bodies are not “fully abled”, but also the tremendous courage and determination they display in achieving their goals and overcoming their handicaps.

The Paralympics (29 August to 9 September) will, like the Olympics, be a sell-out and will attract able-bodied and disabled spectators alike, eager to cheer on their heroes and draw inspiration from their achievements.

So it came as a surprise – even a shock – to me to learn that Locog (the London Organising Committe of the Olympic Games) has a ticketing policy, as far as spectators in wheelchairs are concerned, for which the only word that adequately describes it is “discriminatory”.

Wheelchair users can only be accompanied by one person.

Imagine a family of four, one of whom is in a wheelchair, wanting to cheer on a basketball team. Two will be seated in one area, whilst the other two (one in a wheelchair) have to be seated elsewhere. Where’s the fun in that? Where’s the family spirit? And what message does that send to a wheelchair-bound child in a world that is supposed to be inclusive and non-discriminatory?

Beth Davis-Hofbauer (pictured) is a wheelchair user and mother of a four-year-old autistic son and a 19-month-old daughter who finds herself in that position. Rather than accept it, she decided to harness people power and has started a petition which has already received 34,000 signatures (including mine).

As a result, Locog is taking notice and has already relented to the extent of agreeing that people in wheelchairs can sit together with their families, but they will have to wait until the day of their chosen events to learn where they will be seated. In other words, unlike able-bodied spectators, they will not receive confirmed seats in advance.

Understandably, for most families with a disabled, wheelchair-bound member, that arrangement is not good enough. Most will have concerns, which may prove correct, that when they present themselves at a venue they will be informed, despite the promise, that there’s nowhere for them to sit together.

So, a few more signatures on the petition might produce the desired result. Beth is hoping to get 50,000 or more. 100,000 would be even better. It’s a pity that the organisers hadn’t anticipated and solved this problem well in advance.

To read Beth’s story and sign the petition, click here. And if you have a Facebook or Twitter account, why not share her request with others?

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